Lumen VP dishes on 100G, 400G network overhaul

Analysts and investors alike have hemmed and hawed about Lumen Technologies’ future prospects in recent months, and for good reason. While CEO Jeff Storey and other executives have talked up Lumen’s expansive transformation strategy, the details of what exactly it’s been doing have been unclear at best. But according to Lumen VP of Core Network Solutions Miriana Martinova, the answer to that question is, simply, a lot.

Over the past 12 to 18 months, Lumen has set about completely overhauling its network, including the infrastructure for both its Layer 1 wavelength services and Layer 2 metro products like Ethernet. The former has gotten an update with 400G capabilities while the latter has gotten a 100G boost.

Martinova said while its Ethernet upgrades were initially tied to customer opportunities, Lumen decided to initiate a broader pivot from 10-gig to 100-gig to capitalize on rising market demand for high-bandwidth capabilities. Late last year, the company rolled out 30-gig Ethernet connectivity for Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), Lumen Cloud Connect and IP VPN services in nine initial markets. It’s planning to extend that to nine additional markets in May and hit a total of more than 40 markets by the end of 2022.

Areas where service is currently available include Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Ft Lauderdale, Fla.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Newark, N.J.; Sunnyvale, Calif. and Washington, D.C. Those getting the service next month include Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Salt Lake City, Utah and Seattle, Wash.

According to Martinova, Lumen prioritized “core strategic markets” for the Ethernet upgrades, targeting the kinds of cities that are home to customers and verticals that demand high-bandwidth. Those verticals include everything from financial services, education and healthcare to hyperscalers, manufacturing and government.

“In the past we were able to provide those high-bandwidth needs when customers needed this for Ethernet via waves access. Now with the deployment of the 100-gig network capabilities we’re going to be able to provide that natively within Ethernet,” Martinova explained. She added the new 30-gig offering is ten times the 3-gig Ethernet bandwidth Lumen previously provided.

While its Ethernet upgrades in 2022 are focused squarely on North America, she noted Lumen is also eyeing plans for potential upgrades in the EMEA and APAC regions. Of those, EMEA is a bigger priority.

400G wavelength

Lumen has also somewhat stealthily upgraded the vast majority of its core inter-city transport network and rolled out a new 400G wavelength service toward the end of last year. Martinova said this piece of the puzzle – wavelength services – is “really significant because Lumen continues to see very, very significant demand by our large enterprise customers, hyperscalers and some wholesale customers for waves capabilities.”

As part of its upgrade, Lumen overhauled its internal systems to make both its wavelength and metro products more consumable via digital channels. For instance, Martinova said Lumen has added a new feature called Topology Viewer to its customer portal which allows clients to see Lumen’s North America core footprint and self-design their desired wavelength services. Using the tool, they can make selections for requirements like bandwidth, latency, diversity and distance and visualize the final route before initiating service.

“We are launching marketplace experience products that are go forward products for us, strategic, they’re growing at or above market rates, and we’re delivering those in a much simplified digital experience with simplified product structure that of course will make them better consumable through that do-it-yourself experience,” she stated. Martinova added Lumen plans to offer its new products not just through its own marketplace but also via third parties as well.

On top of all of that, Lumen is also deploying XGS-PON for its residential broadband push to cover a total of 12 million locations with its Quantum Fiber product over the coming years.

Lay of the land

Lumen is already excelling in both the Ethernet and wavelength markets.

The company held the top position in Vertical Systems Group’s (VSG) U.S. Carrier Ethernet Leaderboard for the fifth year in a row. For the full-year 2021, Lumen led AT&T, Charter’s Spectrum Enterprise, Verizon, Comcast Business and Cox Business. Vertical Systems Group noted Ethernet DIA is the primary underlay service used in U.S. carrier managed SD-WAN networks. Lumen ranked fifth in VSG’s U.S. Carrier Managed SD-WAN Leaderboard for 2021.

Rick Malone, principal of Vertical Systems Group, said in a statement “Our latest research shows how enterprise SD-WAN transformations are impacting the Ethernet market as customers increase installations of high-speed DIA connectivity in their networks and decrease use of legacy switched Ethernet services.”

Lumen also ranked number one on VSG’s 2021 U.S. Wavelength Services Leaderboard, beating out Zayo, Verizon, AT&T, Arelion, Windstream, Crown Castle and Cox Communications. Malone stated VSG’s forecasts call for double-digit growth in 2022 “driven by high demand for 100 Gbps wavelength circuits.” Meanwhile, revenue for U.S. wavelength services was tipped to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13% from 2021 to 2026.